Monday, 8 April 2013

Meet the Singer 401G

Introducing:

Singer 401G Sewing Machine showing balance wheel.

"The SLANT-O-MATIC - the greatest sewing machine ever built!"

Well that's what Singer told new owners back in the late 1950s and early 1960s.  It really is quite a claim and probably an indefensible statement.  I am however quite fond of my example of the breed.

Singer 401G Sewing Machine showing needle and tension unit

I don't know how anyone couldn't fall for the streamlined 1950s styling of the Singer 401G.  Part Hillman Minx and part Roberts Radio - what's not to love?

Now I am prepared to accept that 401G might not be everyone's cup of tea but there is no denying that this machine was a range-topper in its day and, if one can bond with one, these machines still offer a lot to the domestic sewer.


Face plate open, tension unit and needleStitch length regulator

What really strikes me about this machine is the general quality and attention to detail on offer.  How thoughtful that the faceplate is hinged for cleaning and oiling and that on the inside is a threading diagram for both needle and bobbin?  The feed is fully reversible and, after the anonymous chrome knobs of the 28K and 15K, the clearly labelled indicator plate is a doddle to use.

AK3 is the setting needed to obtain a straight stitch

There is a lamp hidden behind the "Singer" name plate which is prefocused on the needle - very handy.  The red lever slides to set the position of the needle or the width of the zigzag.  The large centre knob is used to set the type of stitch.
The top of the machine opens to reveal yet another handy diagram.  This one shows the settings needed to obtain some of the many stitches the machine can produce.  The circular space int the top of the machine is where pattern cams can be fitted in order to obtain even more patterns. This machine was originally supplied with five cams.

Now those of you have been following the blog will remember that I had tracked down a set of tool drawers to match this machine.  The way these work alongside the machine and its extension table is typical of Singer's thoughtfulness at this date.

Notice the spring clips on the extension table and the profile of the edge of the tool drawers

The extension table clicks onto the top of the tool drawers

The unit attaches to the bed of the machine, the extension table is supported by the tool drawers and the overall result puts me in mind of an aircraft carrier.

And when ones is done the whole lot packs away beautifully.  It's no bigger than a large brief case but it weighs a lot more.



16 comments:

  1. What a lovely machine! I have never owned a Singer slant model. Maybe it's time!

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    1. Hi Peter
      I'm glad you like the machine. If you can find a slant shank that comes with plenty of attachments and cams included snap it up. I'm sure Cathy would appreciate the effects you can create with the many decorative embroidery stitches.

      Hugs
      G

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  2. Very nice! I sewed with a 500a for the last several years, but just sold it since I fell in love with my newer-to-me Singer 201. That machine looks straight off the showroom floor, awesome find. I've never seen that extension table, very cool!

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    1. Singer 500A - the Rocketeer!? Lucky you. Those ones are even more flamboyant than mine. I don't think the 500A was available to UK buyers. You've got a super machine in the 201 though.

      Hugs
      G

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  3. I own a Singer 401A. Looks just like yours. I even have the case, but I don't own that cool extension table with the tool boxes. My 401 comes with a box of attachments that slides into a slot inside the case that swings out of the way when the machine is stored in case. Does your extension table and tool boxes all fit into the case? And is there a slot inside the case to hold the tool boxes? You can see my case and the compartment under June 2011 Vintage 1951. Sorry that this is so long. I got so excited seeing your extension table and tool boxes. Their way cool!

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    1. Hi MQuilter
      I nipped over to your blog to take a look at your machine. It looks great and at $10 seems like a steal. Talk about being in the right place at the right time. I like the novel arrangement for stowing the tool box in your 401A's case. The 401A I saw when visiting the US was mounted in a cabinet and the tool box lived under the seat of the matching stool. The tool box of the 401G stashes in one end of the case in such a way as to balance out the weight of the motor when carrying. It's held in place by a simple bungee strap. Interestingly the A and the G are far from identical twins. Maybe we should post pics side by side and play spot the difference?
      Hugs
      G

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    2. Yes, not exactly the same. I believe you can set your machine up to be treadled. Have you seen a 411? This comparison has already been done. This is the link to photos, just scroll down the page to see them:
      http://www.quiltingboard.com/vintage-antique-machine-enthusiasts-f22/vintage-sewing-machine-shop-machine-photos-t130994-9.html

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    3. I just used my 401G to make a pair of jeans (stretch) for a dancer friend. I like the machine, but I admit it took a little time for it to grow on me - just not quite as smooth as the 201 and 221. Of course, much more versatile. Alas, I no longer have my Hillman. OK, I haven't had it now for, cough, more than 30 years. A '59 Husky. Sigh. It's ok, the sewing machines are much more practical to repair, and hide.

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    4. Hi Papa
      I have yet to experience sewing on a 221 but I would concur that my 401G is not as silent as the 201K. Your comments on cars vs sewing machines resonates. These days I'd rather be under a machine on a dinning room table than under a Wolseley on a gravel drive.
      Hugs
      G

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  4. My 401A looks very much like your machine except mine is in a blonde cabinet. I added it to the vintage collection since it zigzags and I had a lot of feet,attachments and accessories here that belonged to my not loved touch and sew. I asked the old singer guy I use which model he recommended in the slants. He said hands down the 401s were the best in his opinion so that's the model I went with. I haven't had time to really use it sadly.

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    1. Hi Mssewcrazy

      I bet your 401A looks great in the blonde cabinet. Try and make the time to sew a project or two on your machine I think you might like it. I took me a while to bond with the Singer foot controller. I'm not really and electric guy but practice makes perfect.

      Hugs
      G

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  5. I must be the luckiest of sewing machine enthusiasts. I have four cam stack machines. Three of them are Singers, the 319K, a 401G and the free arm 431G. Plus a most wonderful machine a deep green Vigorelli ZZ/A Robot. My only trouble is not having enough time to fully appreciate them. Dave

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  6. I really enjoy using/working/maintaining cam stack machines. Genuine quality and a joy to own.
    Dave

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  7. Hi Gavin,
    Im new to sewing and i just bought a Singer 401G, it will be delivered soon! i can't wait to start using it!
    Love your just discovered blog.
    Jess Marrero.
    Dublin. Ireland

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    Replies
    1. Hi Jess
      Welcome to Oil and Thread. I'm glad you like the blog. I really hope you enjoy your 401G when it arrives. Depending on where you found it it is a good idea to get it PAT tested and serviced by a pro. Happy sewing and let me know how you get on.
      Hugs
      G

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